Shock and Awe. The story of the failure of the American media
It’s hard to come up with a better illustration of the need for media analysts than Joey Hartstone’s upcoming screenplay by Rob Reiner’s “Shock and Awe”. A film about the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. About how all the "respectable" and "mainstream" media succumbed to government fraud. They betrayed the trust of the public, turned into a propaganda tool for the harmful and expensive adventure that launched the catastrophe in the Middle East and destroyed the world order that had developed as a result of the Second World War.
However, all but one succumbed. A small group of journalists and editors from the small Washington news agency Knight Ridder have seen that reality does not coincide with government propaganda. We saw how collective paranoia encompasses respectable media, the flagships of American journalism. Seen, one after another, they betray the principles of the profession and the very essence of journalism. Seen - and did not succumb to general hysteria.
"We are not the New York Times, not the Washington Post, we are not CNN, not Fox News," Says Knight Ridder editor Jonathan Landau, wonderfully played in the Woody Harrelson film.
For me it is very personal story. I know the Middle East not by hearsay, I speak Arabic and I myself wrote articles where I predicted that the Americans would be stuck in Iraq, like Israelis in Palestine. I listened to the warlike speeches of American statesmen on the eve of the war and could not believe that they would go to the invasion. Sometimes I thought that it could not be that everyone is wrong, that everyone does not see what I see. And I remember how hard it was to resist the squall of “analysts” in the most prestigious media, talking battery on TV before the battery, with a smart look asserting about the unipolar world, about the domino effect, about building nations, about the global war on terror and so on a set of neo-conservative slogans that already seemed to me untenable.
I found support not in the then media with their false analytics, but in a great story. Legendary Izzy Stone was born in Philadelphia as Izya Feinstein. He worked as a journalist in prestigious publications, became famous for investigative journalism and books. In 1952, the Anti-American Investigation Commission included his name on the blacklist. All doors closed in front of him. However, it was not possible to break it. From 1953 until his death in 1972, Stone released the independent publication IFStone's Weekly, which became a textbook example of quality journalism. The publication takes the second place in the Index of the best examples of printed journalism in America and 19-place in the list of 100 best works of American journalism of the twentieth century. Stone has trained many young journalists, many of whom have occupied key posts in the American media. Izzy Stone has consistently begun instructing new journalists with the phrase that the government lies, that all governments lie. Full quote:
I remember that on the day of the invasion I was returning home, and on the way there were lonely picketers with homemade plaques against the war. They looked like eccentrics not of this world, and in no way resembled violent anti-war demonstrations of the 1970's - 80's. I remember how acquaintances from various anti-war and human rights groups and humanitarian organizations lined up at the State Department and other departments to receive grants for the notorious Bush Freedom agenda.
“If any news organization wants to be a stenographer for the Bush administration, albeit - says John Walcott in the movie, played by Rob Reiner. - We do not write for people who send other people's children to war. We write for people whose children go to war. ”
I instinctively felt that the mainstream media was producing bullshit. Then they did not talk about fake news and believed in the facts. I frantically searched for alternative sources of information. And could not find. The author of the script “Shock and Awe” Rob Reiner said in a radio interview that he wanted to put the film back in 2003, but did not find a suitable story. He thought of doing something like Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy “Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Atom Bomb,” until he once saw a Bill Moyers documentary from an interview with four Knight Ridder reporters.
Jonathan Landau now holds an important post at Reuters and disagrees that no one has heard them. Whoever needs it, everyone has heard: both the government and colleagues. All those who needed it knew that the Night Ridder had denied reports of weapons mass destruction at Saddam.
Landau sees the problem not in mass paranoia, but in the so-called “access journalism”. In many ways, reporters and analysts depend on sources in the government. Even in times of massive leaks bordering on official betrayal, a successful journalistic career depends on official sources. This is the price. The government may deprive uncomfortable journalists of access to information. And if they naively thought that the Bush administration was punishing journalists too harshly, the government of the Obama peacekeeper turned out to be much worse in this matter.
Landau and his colleagues were denied access. They lost high-ranking sources and their place in the food chain. They had to look for other sources - at the very bottom. It was then that the truth that the government was lying began to be revealed. Ignoring Knight Ridder only helped them. The Bush administration, so zealous in all other cases, has never denied their information - because this would be the best advertisement for Knight Ridder and the best confirmation of their correctness.
Landau told in an interview:
The volume of corruption of the former mainstream media was opened to the public in a correspondence between the head of campaign headquarters Clinton and journalists, published by WikiLeaks. It was painful and unpleasant to find how reputable and trustful journalists offered their services, crawled and justified in admitted blunders.
- the Washington journalist familiar to me spoke.
The name of the film is taken from the military lexicon. This is the name of the strategy of suppressing the enemy by superior forces. This is how the American strategy of mass bombing of Iraq at the beginning of the war is determined. Other examples include the operation of Russian troops in Chechnya, especially during the operation to capture Grozny. However, here the same strategy was applied to the treatment of the American public, and the second oldest profession or, as people like to say in America, the “fourth power”, designed to protect the right of people to know, has become an instrument of this strategy.
Over the years, many good films about the war in Iraq have come out, but none of them influenced the public consciousness in the same way as the films of the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now, Deer Hunter and many others. Perhaps it is precisely because society has never been able to recover from the hysterical euphoria of the “global war on terror” that led to the Iraq war and to be involved in wars all over the world. Liberal America was opposed to the war only while the Republicans were in power, and even without the votes of Democrats in Congress, the Bush administration would not be able to unleash a war.
Among the entire stream of high-quality war films (such as The Lord of the Storm, American Sniper) there is not a single one about the disaster of the Levant peoples who lost hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded. And millions more displaced persons uprooted from their homes by the largest ethnic cleansing in the history of the Middle East, which occurred as a result of the American “mission of spreading democracy”.
In war films, the humanization of the “others”, the expansion of the narrative, is very lacking. In “Shock and Trepidation” there is a heroine named Vlatka, the wife of one of the journalists (played by Mila Jovovich). She is the first to tell her husband that the atmosphere reminds her of the explosion of nationalism in her native Yugoslavia. However, two American Arab women, Hanna Allam and Leyla Fadil, who, according to eyewitness accounts, played an important role in realizing what was happening, worked at the Knight Ridder agency. They did not find a worthy place in the film - from the same desire for a simplified narrative that prevails in America.
There are many good films about the harm that America has suffered from its aggressive policy, about the high price that the Americans pay, but no one has yet asked why we spread our notions about life under the threat of guns, missiles, drones and bombs. Perhaps Hollywood is simply not capable of producing such a picture, and this is the business of filmmakers - representatives of peoples who are victims of incessant aggression. Perhaps such films will open their eyes to the fact that the American people are also victims of neoliberal colonization, turning America into a banana republic of multinational corporations.
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